It is still very early in the off season. The draft is just under a month away and teams are still far from finalizing their rosters. That does not change the fact that I can’t stop thinking about the start of the NFL season. I know there has been a lot of talk about the Miami Dolphins being in rebuilding mode and, while that may be true when looked at from a strictly offensive point of view, I have a hard time believing that this team will be as bad as some media outlets depict them to be.
In an attempt to quell my own desire to talk about how the NFL season will play out in Miami, I have graded out the AFC East. These grades are based solely on last seasons performance and the current roster, as well as my own biased speculation. Enjoy. Feel free to leave your opinions of my opinions in the comment section!
Offense: The Bill’s offense last year was a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde act. In the first seven games of the season the team was 5-2 and scored 20 points or more in every game to that point. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was impressive enough to be signed to a large contract extension in October. HB Fred Jackson also got of to a great start. Before getting hurt in week 11 (against Miami) he had over 900 rushing yards.
After the first seven games of the season the wheels fell off for Buffalo and they went on a seven game losing streak. From the start of that losing streak till the end of the season they gave the ball away 21 times. If the Bills find any semblance of consistency in their offense and weapons like Fred Jackson can stay healthy then this unit looks good. Fitzpatrick, though overpaid, is a decent enough QB when he has protection and he can definitely win in this league.Conversely, if they struggle with consistency again it may be a long season.
Defense: The defense of the Bills was much improved so far this off season. They were light last year in the pass rushing department so they spent over 100 million dollars on the best pass rusher in free agency, Mario Williams. He will help this team tremendously. They also added another defensive tackle in Mark Anderson who had 10 sacks for the Patriots last season.
Holes in the teams secondary need to be addressed, but there is still time for that. If they can force turnovers and avoid injury, like they did in the first seven games of last year, this defense may be quite the obstacle for the Dolphins to have to face twice a year. All that said, they suffered a lot of injuries last year and were particularly weak in the second half of the season. SO
Offense: Well, the Dolphin’s offense is going to be a bit of a mystery from here until the start of the season. There are so many questions one could ask about what will happen with this unit, like: Who will be starting QB? Who will pick up the slack after the Brandon Marshall trade? What will Joe Philbin’s west coast offense be like? Will we still fist pump after field goals? etc.
All we can really do with the Dolphin’s offense is look at the offense of the Green Bay Packers and hope Philbin can work similar magic here. Who the Dolphins select in the in the draft will be telling of whats in store, but until we see the product on the field we won’t know for sure.
Defense: When talk of the team rebuilding comes up I look at the Dolphins defensive side of the ball and I fail to think it’s possible to be rebuilding with a D this good. The retention of DT Paul Soliai at a discount and weapons like LB Cameron Wake and CB Vontae Davis give this team the potential to have another year of a top performing defense. While the addition of a complimentary pass rusher to help out Wake is necessary and questions about the safety position are lingering, the D is still in good shape.
There is a need for the team to force more turn overs. Both Davis and CB Sean Smith need to mature and play more consistently, but the addition of Richard Marshall will help the play of the secondary. Call me biased, but I am giving this unit a solid
New England Patriots
Offense: Tom Brady, need I say more?
Okay fine, they have a ton of weapons for Brady to get the ball to. Between their fast and talented receivers and their large and talented tight ends, New England has no shortage of play makers. Not to mention they spent most of their free agency adding to the list of offensive players. At the end of the day the offense of the Pat’s is scary good. Yeah, they lost BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but I think Brady will manage.
Defense: The Pat’s defense was really their offense last season. The actual defense was ranked 31st last season in total yards. They claimed to be a ‘bend don‘t break’ defense, they ranked in the middle of the league in terms of points allowed. The teams D did produce a lot of turn overs and they did play a bit tougher in the playoffs, but I still think the Pats have the worst defense in the division.
New York Jets
Offense: First things first I don’t think there is a lot that separates the Dolphins and the Jets in terms of on field talent. I don’t think Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez are any better than Matt Moore and David Garrard, despite the play off wins of the Jet QBs. I think both teams need to add play makes on offense and their defenses are both very talented. I can see both teams ending with similar records. That said…
The Jet’s offensive situation is interesting. They have a really good receiver in Santonio Holmes, they are paying him elite money, but they have a game plan that works entirely against a passing offense. I think the addition of Tim Tebow really has the potential to hurt the Jets this season. There were problems last year that started because the Jet receivers didn’t have faith in Sanchez’ ability to throw the ball. That’s why it’s curious that the Jets went so hard after Tebow, a worse throwing QB. After all we have seen from Rex Ryan the past few years, this seems to have the potential to blow up in the Jet’s faces.
Maybe it’s the fact I grew up in New Jersey surrounded by Jets fans and I am hoping for a Jets disaster, but I foresee even more drama coming out of the Jets locker room. I know Tebow is a classy guy and I know the Jets run the wild cat better than the rest of the league, but I cannot see this offense producing in a way that protects Sanchez’ starting job. I also don’t think Tebow just keeping the team close is going to be enough for the Jets. I am excited to see what unfolds in New York this season.
The Jets defense is lacking a pass rush. Most of the defense is solid, but they struggle to apply pressure on the QB. There is a lot of talent on this side of the ball. The line backer corps is impressive, while the secondary is often considered to be one of the best in the league. Derrelle Revis is lights out on just about every snap. If the Jets can find a pass rusher to put a bit more pressure on the QB this defense will once again be very formidable.
As of this moment I can see the Jets finishing in last. That is primary due to what I think will be a continuation of last year locker room issues and I don’t think they have the talent on offense. The rest of division going Pats, Bills, then Phins. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.